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    Categories: A & ETheater

Theater Review: Irving Berlin's White Christmas at The Eccles

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

It should come as no surprise to readers of my reviews that I’m a cynical person—I never miss an opportunity to make a snide remark or to dismiss something as not-for-me. In fact it’s this quality that makes me a good critic of pop culture, if I do say so myself.

But I have a confession. I love Christmas. I love every single hokey Christmas movie. I love every corny unoriginal song (save “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” that one is just creepy). Yes, from December 1-January 1, my cynicism is put on hold for the holidays. I am unashamedly full of the Christmas spirit. And so, when I went to The Eccles Theater on Wednesday night for the opening night of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, I got exactly what I came for—wholesome holiday entertainment.

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

The plot of White Christmas follows closely along that of the film with the same name. Friends and former WWII soldiers Bob and Phil are a successful Vaudeville act who meet a pair of sisters and head to Vermont (albeit, unwittingly for Bob) to chase down true love. Once they get there, the Green Mountain State is not just a clever name, the state is in the middle of a heat wave and the hotel, owned by Bob and Phil’s former military commander, is headed for failure if the snow doesn’t come soon. That is, until Bob and Phil come up with a plan.

The story is both predictable and disjointed, but let’s be honest here: Theater-goers are not buying seats at Irving Berlin’s White Christmas expecting David Mamet-level plot and banter. They want the songs of one of the greatest musical composers of all time, the people want Irving Berlin. This play provides that in spades.

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

In fact, the songs from White Christmas are among some of the most popular ever recorded. We all know “White Christmas,” of course, but “Sisters,” “Count Your Blessings,” and “Blue Skies” are also among the Berlin-written soundtrack. In fact, the play leans more heavily on Mr. Berlin songbook than its namesake film did.

The film, however, also had Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. Intimidating acts to follow, certainly, but leading men Sean Montgomery and Jeremy Benson excelled in their roles of buddies Bob and Phil. Playing the sisters were Kelly Sheehan and Kerry Conte, but it was veteran actors Conrad John Shuck and Lorna Luft (daughter of Judy Garland, of course) who stole the show as the General and his innkeeper.

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Period-appropriate costumes, in bright colors and lush winter fabrics were a highlight—there were as many costume changes as there were set changes throughout the evening.

But the best part of the show were the elaborate dance numbers scattered throughout, most notably a tap-dancing rendition of “I Love a Piano,” the audience response to that number actually delayed the production for a few extra seconds due to a hearty round of applause. Throughout the night, it was the choreography that proved, as a song early in the play said so eloquently (as Irving Berlin so often did), “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing.”

 

White Christmas plays through December 11. Tickets are still available here.

Christie Marcy :Christie Marcy is the managing editor at Salt Lake magazine. Though she writes about everything, she has a particular interest in arts and culture in Utah. In the summer months you will find her at any given outdoor concert on any given night. In the winter, you will find her wishing for summer. Follow her on social media at @whynotboth.